Has Anyone Actually Paid For A Self-Driving Uber Ride In Arizona Yet?

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Remember how Uber re-launched its self-driving pilot program in Arizona last week? Yeah, that happened. But a couple residents in the city of Tempe, where the ride-hailing giant’s self-driving cars are dispatched, haven’t caught a ride in an autonomous Uber yet—despite seeing a dozen driving around town, without any passengers, and a bevy of failed attempts to hail one of the high-tech cabs. Only Arizona’s Uber-friendly governor seems to have been carted around in an autonomous Uber.


Uber certainly drove passengers around San Francisco and Pittsburgh in semi-autonomous cars. But as far as we can tell, we can’t find reports of anyone in Tempe documenting their experience in a self-driving Uber.

That doesn’t seem to surprise Kevin Kauffman, a 38-year-old Phoenix resident who runs a real estate company and spoke to us over the phone.

Kauffman and a business associate have tried since last week to get a ride in a self-driving Uber to no avail.

“I might have seen 12 of them and not one of them has had a passenger,” he told Jalopnik. Kauffman said he’s “really interested in the technology,” so the prospect of getting a chance to drive around in an autonomous vehicle was exciting.

“The same reason I want to buy a Tesla,” he said. “I just want to be a part of it because it’s something I’m into.”


But he and a business partner have had no luck so far. Between the two, Kauffman said, they’ve spent over $100 on cancellation fees after more than 15 requests for an UberX failed to turn up an autonomous ride.


Uber’s Support team responded at one point to Kauffman’s friend, saying all he needed to do was request an UberX and a self-driving vehicle “will pick you up if one is available.” It’s not that easy, Kauffman responded. He claimed he was within a “few hundred feet” of a half-dozen cars—all without passengers—and none responded.


Tempe’s a small town, Kauffman told Jalopnik, so it isn’t hard to spot one of the company’s autonomous cars.

“They’re not hard to find if you’re driving in a university,” he said. “A lot of people have told me ‘I’ve seen them,’ but nobody’s said they’ve seen them [with passengers].”


Of course, it’s possible that Kauffman, by sheer coincidence, has yet to receive a ride. The clearest—and only—shot of an autonomous Uber tooling around Arizona is from the video below, and it doesn’t look like a passenger’s in the back seat.

Uber didn’t offer much when we asked for comment. A spokesperson said in an email that the pilot is “available to Tempe area riders.”


“We’re [sic] launched last week with a handful of self-driving Ubers,” the spokesperson said. “As always, we are not releasing numbers of rides at this time.”


Uber found itself in Arizona after it was booted out of California for refusing to pay a $150 permit to use self-driving cars on San Francisco streets. The company has since sent some of the autonomous vehicles back to California, but only to gather mapping data.

If you have been driven in a self-driving Uber in Arizona, let us know at tips@jalopnik.com.

Senior Reporter, Jalopnik/Special Projects Desk


son of a motherless goat (PSA: wash your hooves)

Still waiting for Uber Bark.